Defund Hate Blog

New report, “Left to Die” details Border Patrol’s widespread negligence and discriminatory emergency response system

By Yesenia Padilla, Communications Manager, Alliance San Diego and Carly Pérez Fernández, Communications Director, Detention Watch Network

A new report, Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search & Rescue and the Crisis of Disappearance, by No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos details how U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol systematically ignores and mishandles search and rescue emergencies in the borderlands. 

The report analyzes emergency calls received by the Coalición de Derechos Humanos’ 24-hour Missing Migrant Crisis Line, and finds that Border Patrol did not conduct a confirmed search or rescue mobilization in 63 percent of cases. This includes 40 percent of cases where Border Patrol directly refused to take any measures in response to a life-or-death emergency. When Border Patrol did respond, the searches were severely diminished in time and resources when compared to searches for US citizens.

The evidence is overwhelming: Border Patrol hinders search and rescue efforts. 

The report goes on to expose how Border Patrol is more than twice as likely to directly cause someone to become lost or in distress through dangerous enforcement tactics, as they are to participate in an attempt to locate a lost person. Furthermore, Border Patrol refuses to share information about search efforts and whether or not a missing person is in their custody, leaving families in limbo. Border Patrol interfered with family or humanitarian search efforts in 25 percent of the cases analyzed. 

Peopleincluding children and the elderyare in jeopardy in Border Patrol custody. 

“Left to Die” adds to CBP’s decades-long record of abuses, including the deaths of six children in its custody, family separations and arrests of children receiving urgent medical care. Despite the overwhelming pattern of abuse and culture of impunity, CBP’s budget has consistently grown by over 30 percent since 2016, making it the government’s highest funded law enforcement agency, with Border Patrol specifically having an annual budget of over $4.5 billion. But as the report clearly demonstrates, an astronomical budget has not resulted in better conditions or treatment, rather it has only further exposed how the agency is fundamentally flawed.

It’s time for Congress to cut funding to CBP. 

CBP’s Border Patrol is not a humanitarian agency, and should never be entrusted with humanitarian relief funds and search efforts. CBP’s record of abuse and widespread negligence is compounded by the agency’s reckless use of taxpayer dollars. In 2019 CBP requested millions of dollars in emergency funding for medical supplies, but then wasted this money on ATVs and dirt bikes for their own use

Our elected officials must call for cuts in funding to CBP this fiscal year, including a significant reduction in Border Patrol agents. Everyone in the border region—residents, visitors, business and immigrants—deserves to have their human rights respected and protected. 

Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search & Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance is the third installment of No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos Disappeared report series.

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